Organizers of Whitehall-Yearling High School's first Academic Trades Fair said they were pleased with the event May 8 -- but more importantly, so were students.

"I learned a lot about other careers I hadn't thought about," said senior Kalib Weaver, who later this year will start an apprenticeship with IBEW Electrical Trade Center.

Weaver said he'll work over the summer performing minor tasks as a private contractor for the IBEW Electrical Trade Center before beginning his training in the fall to become a certified electrician.

"I want to be an electrician and I think this is the best way to do it," he said.

The trades fair opened up new paths for junior Abbey Barth.

"I looked at a few different things but wound up spending most of my time at a plumbing company," said Barth, who handled a welder and a soldering kit and practiced cutting a pipe during the fair.

The origins of the trades fair began when Whitehall City Councilwoman Lori Elmore approached Whitehall-Yearling High School Principal Paul Smathers with the idea of having a career day featuring only skilled-trade organizations.

"The focus is job and career readiness for Whitehall students as an alternative to college, utilizing the skilled trades as a launch pad," Elmore said.

Smathers said he is proud Whitehall-Yearling could offer the trades fair.

"We are committed to developing students beyond getting a high school diploma, whether it's for college or a career," Smathers said. "The Academic Trades Fair provides students a chance to explore the construction skilled trades and job opportunities in central Ohio."

Whitehall's trades fair was launched, Elmore said, in response to a new state law that establishes minimum-access standards for universities, trade schools and military recruiters to present information at least twice each academic school year for students in grades 9-12.

House Bill 98 was sponsored by Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) and Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus).

The legislation passed the House in November 2017, the Senate in March and becomes effective June 29.

Duffey, who is chairman of the Higher Education and Workforce Committee, said he is "all too familiar with students burdened by college debt while debt-free, high-paying jobs go unfilled in the skilled trades, such as electrical, plumbing, welding and manufacturing."

Duffey said he and Boggs collaborated to "make sure every student has the opportunity to learn about these possible careers."

He added the idea sprung from an encounter at the Columbus Metropolitan Club, during which Duffey learned that skilled trades, including those at the OSU Wexner Medical Center, often are unfilled.

"Trade fairs are one of the best ways to get all these employers and skilled trades together, which makes it more convenient for students and employers alike," he said.

The Columbus Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council partnered with Whitehall schools to present the trades fair.

Dorsey Hager of the Trades Council said the organization is "proud to partner" with Whitehall schools "to expose (students) to careers in the building trades."

Smathers said the trades fair, coupled with a continuing construction boom, provided good opportunities for students.

"The need for skilled laborers is high," Smathers said.